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Sunday, 21 November 2010

We can't give in to crime

On Friday I joined residents who have set up a petition to get bus services back to normal in Henbury following a spate of attacks to the buses.

I have to say, I was outraged that First Bus services should be re-directed and stopped in Henbury becuase of a spate of crime.

Ok, I know that First Bus has a duty to protect its drivers.

Ok, I understand the police are stretched, and too much of their time is still spent on administration not the front line.

But giving into crime like this is not on because it gives out completely the wrong signal to criminals - that civilisation will give into them, and change its behaviour because of what they do.

That's a dangerous precedent; It's unfair on residents whose travel is severely disrupted, and all-too-often have to put up with the kind of crime and disruption that the buses are fleeing day-in, day-out.

It's not a question of 'whose fault' this is. It's about making sure things return to normal ASAP and that this never happens again.

Therefore I am meeting the Police and First Bus to work out how in future its the criminals who suffer for their crimes, not the public, and that it is law and order, not louts and criminals, that calls the shots.

Friday, 19 November 2010

Fairbridge: Turning around lives ( and making great cakes)

One of the perks of being an MP is that occasionally it means being forced to sit down to a nice cup of tea and eating some sinfully enormous and rich chocolate cake. I know. Tough, isn't it...

My visit to Fairbridge was one of those tough times: The young people ( some pictured here) many at risk of exclusion, come to Fairbridge for a variety of activities that, in their own words ( and I didn't see any of the staff kicking them under the table to say this!) - really has turned their lives around.

One of my young constituents in Southmead had made an obscenely superb chocolate cake for the occasion - and cooking is one of the activities that the Fairbridge centre offers. It had banana and chocolate goo in the middle, and over cake and tea we discussed what the young people had gained from the scheme, what their future plans were, and I spoke to one young man who had benefited from Fairbridge, who has now come back to help and plans to be a youth worker. That, and the views of the young people themselves, is testament enough to the great work the organisation does.

Tuesday, 19 October 2010

Southmead takes its protest to No.10

Community Groups up and down Bristol have been protesting about the Council's plans to sell off tracts of our green space which they deem as 'disposable', but in reality, is anything but.

The other week, I joined a group from Southmead, who have been doing brilliant work making the case for the old Dunmail School site to be kept.

The group, led by local people, had compiled a petition of hundreds of signatures, as well as collecting scores of responses to the council's plans, and came up to London to present them to no.10.

I was proud to be there as we handed in the petition to No.10 Downing Street.

Afterwards, we went on a bit of a tour around Westminster and had a cup of tea before the coach back to Bristol arrived. ( Thanks to our superb volunteer photographer for the Big Ben photo!)

If local democracy means anything, it means listening to residents' views on our green space - who have taken the battle to save Bristol's Green Spaces all the way to Westminster. Well done to everyone involved for your sturdy campaign, standing up for local people.

Friday, 15 October 2010

Southmead Green Space: Listen to the people who know best...

It's such a shame. The Council's parks and green spaces strategy is supposed to improve green space for the people of Bristol. The problem is, that the proposals put forward do not seem to reflect at all the real needs of local people.

I've been supporting dozens of protests and picnics across my constituency, set up by people who do not object to maximizing the benefits of our green space, but who do object to council plans that seem out of touch with what's needed.

I've not spoken to anyone for example who actually supports the so called proposed 'improvements' to Glencoyne Square as local people say the proposals will make things less safe, and the square less usuable... and it's "improvements" like this, which I have yet to find public support for, which are what areas of much valued land are to be sold off for...

This protest was against plans to get rid of the play area at Embleton Park, off the Square. If you feel strongly, sign the petition for saving genuinely needed community green space at .

Thursday, 16 September 2010

Rovers gives a boost to Henbury Streetz Project

We've come a long way. From an idea I had after seeing a street dance performance at a charity dinner, to getting a new street dance group started at Emmanuel Chapel in Henbury!

The crew at Emmanuel Chapel have been superb in really making it happen, my mum has got involved to raise funds and now we have enough money for street dance every Friday, with beat-box on the cards for the future.

Our new group of talented street dancers and the team all went to the Rovers stadium to collect money. Sporting our new "Henbury Streetz Project" T-Shirts, we raised several hundred pounds on one day, and great fun was had by all. Many thanks to everyone who dug deep: And there was a Rovers victory as well! Thanks to Rovers and our intrepid team of fundraisers and dancers!

Wednesday, 1 September 2010

Natural England

It is easy to take things for granted. My meeting with Natural England reminded me what extraordinary natural habitats and features Bristol North West is host to - from the Severn Estuary ( Above, as seen from the superb Kingsweston House. The ideal venue for a coffee-with-a-view!) with its enormous variety of bird life, to The Downs and the Avon Gorge (below) which hosts plant species unique to the Gorge itself.

There is always a balance between preserving what already exists, and making way for progress. Thankfully now there is more emphasis on sustainable progress - changes that are not so detrimental to the world around us that they destroy the environment that makes everything possible in the first place - but that balance is still very hard to get right.

Natural England explained their role in both protecting bird species in the Severn Estuary, and recognising the enormous importance of Avonmouth to the economic prosperity of the city; It was a morning very informatively spent - and it's made me look again at the 'natural assets' our city possesses.

Saturday, 28 August 2010

Southmead's picnic protest

Despite a shabby August, it has been a summer of big picnics. But that's because this summer is the time to respond to the Council's consultation on the Parks and Green Spaces strategy. The strategy's aim was to sell off disposable land in order to raise money to enhance the rest. Nothing wrong with that. Except that much of the land that the Council has earmarked as potentially 'disposable' and up for development is anything but to the communities who live in the area.

The old Dunmail School site on Lanercost Road is a case in point - a school that the area now would much need was demolished, but now the Council have earmarked the land for possible housing or traveler site development.

The community turned out in force to make the point that the site is not of low value or disposable - the community is doing all it can to make its voice heard. The Council has said it is listening to local people - the community is hoping that listening will mean acting on what they have to say.


The good news is that at a meeting with the Council Officer in charge of the process, I asked whether the Council's very impenetrable consultation forms were the only form of response that the Council would accept. Thankfully he confirmed that the Council would accept any form of submission to the Consultation.

The Council told me that the most helpful thing is to look at the strategy ( you can see it at local libraries, and online) and comment on specifics, with your opinion always backed up with facts ( eg. traffic, access, local infrastructure etc) - and also put forward some positive ideas of your own. - That's the best way to get your voice heard.

Sunday, 22 August 2010

Upper Horfield's blooming Housing Association

I have watched the development of Upper Horfield for several years now, and the local housing association, Bristol Community Housing Foundation ( BCHF) have always been at the heart of what's going on in the area. They provide a very good model of what is meant by 'The Big Society' - they are helping to create a good community not by thousands of rules and regulations, but simple things like encouraging people to take ownership of small plots of green space on their street; community clear-ups, and by giving Sue Moon, pictured here, the bulbs, space and most of all freedom to share her gardening expertise with the rest of the street by planting out the communal flower beds. She also makes a mean blackberry jam from local blackberries ( thanks Sue!).
If you want to see an alternative to using thousands of rules and regulations to create a healthy, good community, you could do a lot worse than visit BCHF at 400 Filton Avenue...

Friday, 30 July 2010

RAF cadets

I was very honoured to be invited to give out achievement awards at the RAFA Club in Westbury on Trym.

I am always struck by the discipline and respect that cadet forces like these display. I've already spoken in Parliament about supporting our cadets, since they are so valuable in instilling those values that made Great Britain, well, Great, and which are still being displayed by our armed forces abroad today.

The RAFA Club in Westbury on Trym also boasts a very good selection of proper British Ales, and has won the the regional CAMRA ( Campaign for Real Ale) Club of the Year award.

Great to see people across the generations working together in a club like this!

Thursday, 29 July 2010

Horfield Health Centre

I was very keen to visit Horfield Health Centre, and talk to GPs about the plans contained in the Government's White Paper, to hand commissioning over to professional GPs. My dad has been a surgeon for over 30 years, so I've got a special interest in listening to what professionals have to say, and the valuable input they can provide in turning a policy into practice. It was a really constructive, encouraging and interesting meeting.

Horfield Health Centre is a real success - and with a growing population on its doorstep, is only going to be getting busier!

Sunday, 25 July 2010

Rookie mess-ups!

It can be quite intimidating for a newbie, Parliament. The air is thick with protocol, and written and unwritten rules. The potential for messing up is gloriously huge.

On Wednesday, I did my first Westminster Hall debate (on Local Education Partnerships, (LEPs) based on the issues I'd seen with them in relation to academies and Elmlea School.)

Hansard records mess-ups beautifully - and I thought you might like to see Hansard's version of one of mine...!

21 July 2010 : Column 140WH
Local Education Partnerships
4.44 pm

Charlotte Leslie (Bristol North West) (Con): Thank you, Mr Speaker. This is my first Westminster Hall debate, so if I mess up the protocol-

Mr James Gray (in the Chair): You addressed me as Mr Speaker, which is flattering, but incorrect. I am not yet the Speaker. Mr Gray is perfectly sufficient.

Charlotte Leslie: Thank you, Mr Gray. That was my first mess-up.

Saturday, 24 July 2010

Tea(Street)Dance with mum

At the beginning of the year, I brought a Street-Dance team to Henbury's Emmanuel Chapel to start trial street-dance classes for local young people.

The classes were a huge success, and 9 weeks later, a significant group of young people had put together an excellent street-dance routine which they performed in front of the community (including their parents.) And the young people loved it so much that one of them anonymously, and unbeknownst to us, applied for Aspiring Communities funding themselves to continue it.

And my mum ( Who has always had a bit of a thing for street-dance) took it upon herself to fundraise to get enough money to secure the street-dance classes for the future. A few years ago she took up cycling, and recently won the European Triathlon Championships in her age-group - so she decided to do a big sponsored Bike Ride around the Bristol area to raise money for the street dance group.

This is just one of the fundraising events organised around her Big Bike Ride - A beautiful tea put on by Cynthia Reynolds and Carole Lye ( both pictured behind the tea table!) .

If you are interested in sponsoring my mum's bike ride for Henbury Street Dance, email my mum at for more details.

Friday, 23 July 2010

Proud of Pubs Day

As anyone who knows me will tell you, I am quite genuinely very proud of our nation's pubs - so it was a particular pleasure for me to take part in the national "Proud of Pubs" day yesterday.

I paid a visit to the only pub in Stoke Bishop - The Mill House, to chat to staff and the pub's area manager, and to talk about the future of our great British pub trade.

We agreed that cut-price, high-strength drinks like alco-pops and super-strength ciders are a problem, and that supermarkets should not be able to sell them below cost; and that there is a real problem of young people getting very cheap alcohol to consume at home before they go out to the pub.

But when I was at the Mill House, there were a good number of people there, enjoying the sunshine, enjoying a responsible pint and a bite to eat.

But if you're concerned about the threat to our great British pubs, sign up to the campaign to Back our Pubs HERE!

Stoke Lodge Adult Learning Centre Open Day ( or, 'the near death of a parliamentary career')

My parliamentary career very nearly took a turn for the worse today as I almost enrolled upon a French Speaking course, a course in wine-tasting, painting, life-sculpture and a cake-decorating course after some moments of extreme enthusiasm at Stoke Lodge Adult Learning Centre's open-day.

I was shown around the centre, which had on show exhibitions from a number of its varied adult learning courses.

I saw some really impressive pieces of work, saw work from people who started off as a hobby, who are well on their way to making a career out of their skill, and I also saw how adult learning courses like this can be a gateway to further education for those initially a bit intimidated by the formality of an F.E course.

I had also not previously appreciated how the courses take place across Bristol, from St. Pauls to The Greenway Centre in Southmead - it was fantastic to see the talent of local people from across Bristol under one roof - thanks to the organisers, and congratulations to all the contributers. Your work almost inspired me to drift from my parliamentary focus and pick up paint brushes and old french books!

Tuesday, 20 July 2010

Maiden no-longer

I only just found my maiden speech on youtube... here it is for the benefit of anyone who wasn't, er, sitting glued to the Parliament channel...

Sunday, 18 July 2010

Bristol's Biggest Picnic - depsite dodgy weather!

......I must admit, the day didn't start hopefully. I'd managed to organise Bristol's Biggest Ever Protest Picnic on the same day as The Southmead Festival, St. Bernard's School fete - and the first rainy weekend for ages. "Nice one," I thought. "It's going to be an almighty failure." But how wrong I was. I'd underestimated English sturdiness against the weather, and the strength of feeling residents have for protecting their local green spaces. So the four picnics held across Bristol North West, at The Daisy Field, Okebourne Open Space, Horfield Common (thanks to Friends of Horfield Common!) and Lockleaze Open Space were a roaring success.

Fearful of the weather, and in mild drizzle, I'd moved the picnic at Lockleaze down a bit to the Romney Avenue entrance to make sure people came- but I needn't have bothered -dozens of people turned up to preserve that unique stretch of space just as it is for dog walkers, residents and wildlife.

We distributed a petition - - as well as encouraging people to write to the Council to register their concerns. This is the first stage of enabling people to make their views heard regarding the future of our community green spaces.

Thanks so much to everyone who helped me organise these picnics - stalwart members of the community ( you know who you are!) and all those who braved the threats of rain to come out for a brilliant day of picnics!

Saturday, 17 July 2010

Southmead Festival Success

By pretty much unanimous agreement, this year's Southmead Festival was one of the most successful ever - the sun came out for the afternoon and highlights included a superb Celine Dion karaoke by a local (male) resident, and some very exciting football - as well as live bands which got everybody moving.

I presented the Football Tournament prizes to Southmead Colts, and got briefly caught up in 'riding the train' of dancers to the live band...

I'm hoping everyone else was having enough fun not to notice...

Well done to all who organised the event - I went to the first Southmead Festival meeting many months ago, and I know people had been working for a long time to carry off such a successful, happy event. I can say without doubt: All the work paid off. Thank you!

Sunday, 4 July 2010

Okebourne Open Space at the heart of Brentry

It's not even a particularly nice day, but wandering past Okebourne Open Space, I came accross this group of residents having a community picnic.

It's a simply beautiful piece of space - with views right out over the estuary towards Wales, on a clearer day. And in the time I was there, children ( ahem, and a few adults) were skootering down the hill, climbing trees and generally running about expending energy in a way that they never would indoors, or even in their own garden.

But the madness is, the Council want to designate this piece of land as 'disposable' and surplus to requirement and build houses on it. This is all part of their Parks and Green Spaces strategy, which in theory sounds fine ( sell off useless land to enhance the good bits) but in practice is proving to be appalling.

There will be more about how to have your say over the Council's parks and green spaces strategy on my website and blog to come; But it's just such a dissappointment that a city like Bristol, which prides itself on being a 'Green City', cannot be more long-sited and see the long-term benefits of preserving space like this that builds ( if you want to use 'council-speak') ' community cohesion' and 'positive activities for young people'.

Mini the dog thinks the space should DEFINITELY be kept. "Hands off" she says to the Council. And she looks like she has a nasty bite...

Saturday, 3 July 2010

Henbury Students' community funday sets the standard!

Here I am with the "BS10 Big It Up" crew, at the superb Henbury Community School Funday, organised entirely by Henbury Students. Now one thing about being a candidate or an MP is that you get to go to a lot, and I mean A LOT of events and fairs. And I can honestly say I have never been to one better organised than this one organised by Henbury School Pupils.

There was food cooked by Henbury school pupils, with the help of the indefatigable ( and looking quite hot) Nick Merrick ; ( There was home-cooked curry as well as fat burgers and sausages), and entertainment and performances by Henbury School pupils.

I managed to get ice-cream all over my face and go berserk on the brick-a-brack stall which was selling off old videos for 10p a go. I spent a humongous £1.10 - and have a large bag of videos I intend to watch at some undetermined point. ( Including an old video of Dangermouse! for 10p! How can you say no to that?!)

Head-boy Ryan told me they'd been working to organise this since before Christmas, and having been behind some event organising myself, I know that something that seemingly flows as smoothly as today requires months and months of preparation. I was just delighted for the pupils that the one thing that couldn't be pre-planned came up trumps :- It was gorgeous weather.

Friday, 2 July 2010

Good biofuel, bad biofuel...

Last week, I was in the press for having written to Chris Huhne, the Energy Secretary, about my concerns over the re-application for a biofuel plant at Avonmouth. With so much going on to try to prevent that plant, which will burn palm oil ( a renewable, but not environmentally sustainable fuel) from being established in Bristol, it is easy to just think of biomass as a bad thing.

So it was really refreshing to be able to visit Blaise Nurseries with Charles Hendry, Minister for Energy and Climate Change and Henbury's Councillor, Chris Windows. At Blaise Nurseries, they put waste wood products in boilers which generates energy. The wood comes from cast-offs from manufacturing ( with strict quality control) and from waste from woodland management; all genuinely sustainable, renewable sources, and turning waste into a source of energy.

There are also a lot of side-benefits: an expansion in woodland planting and woodland managing - which in turn demands new skills and new jobs. Lots of people talk about how climate change can be an opportunity for renewable technology, and how the South West is so well placed to take advantage of this, but it really becomes an exciting and tangible concept when you visit somewhere like Blaise Nurseries. 

We are way behind Europe when it comes to doing this - but it shows that it really can be done and become a mainstream way of generating energy, and of course, we can learn from the mistakes made by our European neighbours without having to make them ourselves! 

Thursday, 1 July 2010

Preventing a moth-eaten Parliament

The small white gadget in this inspiring picture is a moth-prevention device.

Apparently the whole of the Chamber-block, where my office is situated, has been infected with moth ever since a Member of Parliament brought a rug back to his office with him after a trip to an exotic location. The rug contained moth, and the offending creatures have been waging a battle with the parliamentary authorities ever since.

Moth vs. MP ... I've not seen one yet, (moth, that is) so I think we're winning...

Sunday, 27 June 2010

Grand opening of the National Smelters Boxing Gym

This blog has followed the progress of the Avonmouth National Smelters Boxing Club new-gym build. From lowly beginnings ( some girders in the mud) to a superb new facility...

It has all been down to the dedication and work of coach Garry Cave and his team of helpers and volunteers. Today, I was honoured to help open the Gym .

After the club held its AGM and prize giving, I opened the gym with Garry, (left, black T-shirt) and regional boxing developer, Roger Eady (right)

I have blogged incessantly, including an article in the Telegraph, about why boxing is so important for young people. I remember getting cross when one lady told me 'it taught young people to hit' - I'm afraid young people are already perfectly capable of hitting without going to a boxing club. But what boxing does do is channel natural aggression and energy into a disciplined and highly technical sport, and helps young men feel confident enough to walk AWAY from a fight.

But it is also the kind of family that builds up around a club like the National Smelters Club. At the prize giving, every boxer was valued, and I am always so impressed by one particular prize that's handed out: The Boxer's Boxer - the recipient is decided upon by the boxers themselves: They all go into a huddle and within 30 seconds, they have all mutually decided a winner. Try getting politicians to do something similar!

Garry just needs a bit more fundraising done before the gym is completely paid for. I intend to carry on helping and supporting the club, as well as boxing across the city; and now the madness of the General Election campaign is over, there's no excuse for me not to get the gloves back on and get back into the gym!

Saturday, 26 June 2010

Sea Cadets today, tomorrow... the world!

Appropriate, I suppose, that on armed forces day I spent a lot of the time talking to the new chairman of Filton Sea Cadets.
The cadets have done incredibly well, but working from very ramshackle premises at the Horfield TA centre. We discussed fund raising, the possibility of raising enough funds to completely rebuild the existing site - and the enormous potential for reaching out into local schools. As ever, I left thinking... a lot to be done.

Shirehampton Primary goes Turkish

I could have made all sorts of puns about Turkish delights in the title - and quite appropriately too.

Shirehampton Primary School put on a truly exotic Turkish Evening last night; it was a great success with brilliant performances from pupils and adults, which almost made me consider taking up belly-dancing ( The glamorous outfits could have had a lot to do with it too...)

During the interval we were served with Turkish delicacies - particularly memorable was the pistachio cake made by local mum Ruth, who is with me here. Although by the time we got round to taking a photo, the pistachio cake was long gone...

Well done all, a really great community event, superbly organised and the perfect way to spend a hot mid-summers evening!

Thursday, 24 June 2010

Education Select Committee!

I've just found out I've been elected onto the Education Select Committee! For the first time, Select Committee places have not been determined by the Whips, but by an election amongst the other MPs in the party. I put myself forward for education because of my interest in it, both generally as the area which really dictates life chances, but also because there is so much happening in education here in Bristol; I thought it would be brilliant to be at the heart of things as policy is developed.

I didn't expect to get elected onto the Education Select Committee, but am delighted that I have. What is interesting, is that there is a huge number of new intake MPs elected onto Select Committees- and some really talented new people involved, -There's too many to list here, (and I'd probably mess up by missing someone off!) - but they include people with really valuable experience -including two GPs, which is great.

The great thing about Select Committees is that it is where MPs put aside their party political differences and all come together to work constructively on something. That's my kind of politics. I've always said, if I was into tribalism, I'd have got more into football, not politics!

And on that note, of football and work, I thought I'd share my latest office set-up with you. You can just see the England flag which was waving with gusto yesterday, behind me, and my desk is still relatively clear of stuff. There is suddenly a huge amount of work to do - so I wonder how long that will last...

Sunday, 20 June 2010

Horfield Common Forever!

When I got elected as an MP, loads of people told me to take Sundays off and not do anything. And I tried, I really, really tried. But after my usual lunch in Cookies in Lockleaze, I stumbled upon The Horfield Common Picnic. The sun was shining, there was a live band...and a cake stall. How could I say no?!

And after the cake stall, I stumbled upon Sam Thompson, with her Friends of Horfield Common Stall, and we got talking about the Parks and Green Spaces Strategy. (Watch this space for more on that...)

They are raising concerns about plans to dispose of part of the common and are seeking comments and views from local people as to whether the land is used and valuable to the community or not.

The picnic today demonstrated just how valuable green space is for the community; and so much more could be done with it, especially since the community is so engaged and willing to make things happen.

For more information on the campaign, go to

Saturday, 19 June 2010

Caleb's campaign

Sometimes you come across a person, or an event, that makes you stop and reassess things completely. Shielmor Twomey, the lady pictured next to me here, is one of those people.
When she came to see me, she explained that her son, Caleb, had committed suicide just months earlier, in January of this year. He was a lovely, bright, popular young man, who was pursuing a career in modeling - as you can see from the photo of him on the bench. But he had started taking ketamin, and he reacted so badly to it that in January, he took his own life.

His mum has bravely soldiered on, and is now starting a campaign, which I am helping her with, to raise awareness about the dangers of ketamin. This afternoon, on College Green, we unveiled a bench dedicated to Caleb, and let fly 28 balloons - one for each year of his life - with his family and friends. I've tabled an EDM ( Early Day Motion) and Caleb's mum is launching her campaign to try to prevent anyone else from going through anything like this.

Elmlea's Fair Field...

This year, the annual Elmlea School Fair had an added significance. If the Council go ahead with possible plans, it could be the last ever Elmlea Fair to be held on the existing playing field.

The Infant school is in real need of rebuilding and improvement and the Council are looking at rebuilding it on the existing playing field, and using the infant school site as the new playing field.

Anyone who knows the site will know that there will, in effect, be a significant loss of playing field land ( I'm sure some clever people are able to re-categorise things to show that there is no loss of land whatsoever, but back here in Real World, it is fairly obvious that there would be a very significant loss of playing field site.)

Let's just hope the Council see sense, think long term, and preserve this wonderful playing field for the future of the children currently at infant school, and for generations of children, and Elmlea Fairs, to come.